The Next Generation Of Leaders

Nelly Boustany

Two years ago, I posted an article about why the recruitment of great leaders is important for all organizations. After listening to an interview with Niki Lauda (one of the best Formula 1 drivers, a three-time world champion, and survivor of some of the worst fiery clashes ever seen in F1) at November’s SAP Success Connect 2016 in Vienna, I was inspired to write again.

The digital economy is disrupting the way we live and work. Organizations are forced to rethink their business models and act fast in order to succeed, millennials represent a growing proportion of the workforce, and technology is integral to everything we do. What kind of leaders do we need to take our organizations forward? And how will they lead this digital journey to ensure sustainable success?

There is no doubt that great leaders are those who are able to translate organizations’ visions into reality. However, success in the digital economy is going to require a new kind of leadership, focusing on HOW!

  • Inspiring people: Great leaders attract great people because they inspire; they create an open, trusted environment for people to ideate and develop independently.
  • Embracing diversity: The millennial generation is forcing change within the workforce; they think, behave, and collaborate differently and bring fresh and innovative ideas to our organizations. Great leaders value diversity and ensure everyone on the team is included, leveraging diversity to innovate and better understand and serve their customers.
  • Collaboration and recognition: Great leaders encourage collaboration and focus on truly engaging employees. They recognize individuals’ achievements and are active role models for continuous learning – including learning through team collaboration – and provide regular and timely feedback, faster decision-making, and more visibility and recognition.
  • Harnessing technological innovation: Leaders must be the champions of technological innovation, embedding technology into their teams and the organization’s strategy. Compared to baby boomers, millennials have high expectations of how technology will enable their work; for this group, strong leadership represents strong innovation.

All the above shape the business culture that leaders create and impact the legacy they leave.

In the Middle East, more than half of the population is below 25 years of age. According to the World Economic Forum, “this youthful populace can turn into either a ‘youthful dividend’ or a ‘youthful liability,’ depending on the region’s ability to create an enabling environment in which young people’s aspirations can be fulfilled. Millennials are digitally connected as never before, creating the so-called the Arab digital generation with extremely high Internet and mobile penetration.

When it comes to gender diversity, in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states the female labor force participation is higher (32%) that the overall MENA region (21%), but lags globally (>50%) with an extreme case in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Despite high education levels, women are a large and untapped source of knowledge, skills, and experience in the GCC, even though the trends are positive. (Source: GCC Women in Leadership – McKinsey & Company, 2014)

Leaders who are successful at attracting, engaging, and developing talent from diverse talent pools will have a higher chance of growing and sustaining their organizations.

On this note, I pose a question to my fellow HR professionals: Are we focusing on the right leadership characteristics when hiring and promoting our next-generation leaders?

Think you know what makes a leader? Think again: Everything You Know About Leadership Is Wrong.

This blog was previously published on LinkedIn.


Nelly Boustany

About Nelly Boustany

Nelly Boustany manages HR business partners dedicated to supporting all business functions across Middle East and North Africa (MENA) for SAP. In this role, she is responsible for ensuring business success through developing and executing on our people strategy across the region in alignment with corporate company strategy. She also oversees the wider HR team supporting the MENA region such as talent acquisition, HR operations, and talent development. Since joining SAP MENA in 2011, Nelly has brought a clear focus to the people agenda and has instrumental to drive SAP growth in the region by attracting, developing and retaining top talent from the region and around the world.